Oracle Public Cloud User Experience Issues

For some time I’ve been openly critical of the user experience (UX) of Oracle Public Cloud. Just to be clear what I mean by this…

  • I am not talking about the quality of the services that are delivered, or the underlying technologies being used. I’m talking about the day-to-day usage of the Oracle Public Cloud (OPC) interface. The web pages you use to administer this stuff.
  • I’m not talking about the SaaS offerings, like Oracle Fusion Cloud Applications. I have no experience of them, so I am not in a position to comment on them.

With that understood, I have some big issues with the UI/UX of Oracle Public Cloud. I have been providing feedback (briefings, webinars, direct feedback and private forum posts) for some time, but while there are some improvements, the experience of administering your services through the OPC web interface is far behind that provided by Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure IMHO.

We recently had an ACED webinar and during the questions at the end I had a little rant about the user experience. Once that had ended, I wrote and email apologising to the presenter, but also listing a few of my gripes. I also reached out to the Oracle Applications User Experience team…

Yesterday I had a phone call with Jeremy Ashley about the situation and in the next couple of weeks I will hopefully be engaging with the UX team to discuss and demonstrate the issues I have.

Most of the problems I have are about wanting to follow a natural flow of tasks. Many aspects of the interface look like a developer has tried to expose the underlying tech, rather than asking how a user might want to interact with the service. The interface and the implementation do not have to match!

I was going to start a series of blog posts discussing the various UI/UX issues that annoy me, but I will probably hold back on that. Doing some constructive criticism directly to people that can make a difference is much better than me publicly throwing my toys out of the pram, but it’s not quite as fun. 🙂

Fingers crossed!

Cheers

Tim…

PS. I’ve been getting some stick from the guys at work about my telephone voice at the start of the call with Jeremy. I allegedly sounded like a cross between Hyacinth Bucket and Kenneth Williams. 🙂

A week in the cloud… (Just to clarify)

AWSA comment on yesterday’s post by Andy C makes me think I should clarify a couple of things I mentioned in yesterday’s post.

“Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), not really what I consider the cloud.”

For *me* the definition of cloud must include some value-add in relation to ease of use. I’ve used IaaS on Azure, AWS and Oracle Cloud. In all cases I’m left to do the same administration stuff I had to when I was on a physical box or a VM on a local virtual machine. For *me* it only becomes cloud when I have Platform as a Service (PaaS) or Software as a Service (SaaS), where the administration is simplified greatly through tooling. IaaS is just another hosting provider. It’s not really cloud in *my* book. That’s not to say it’s not cool or useful. It’s just not cloud to *me*.

Notice the heavy use of *me* and *my*. This is not the law or even some text book definition. It’s just the way I feel about it, having used a number of hosting companies for business and personal use prior to “the cloud”. You are allowed to think differently, and certainly cloud providers do. 🙂

Note. I’m not discounting the easy of use afforded during provisioning and disposing of resources, but if you’ve worked with a proper virtual infrastructure you’ve had that for a long time. Once again, I’m not saying it’s not cool. I’m saying the day-to-day job as a system administrator or DBA is unchanged by IaaS.

“It’s a much lower spec box (memory, CPU, disk capacity), so really it’s more expensive.”

One of the things we notice when moving people from physical to virtual is they want a complete replica of their server, even if that server is mostly idle, using no memory and a fraction of the disk space it is allocated. One of the good points of virtual infrastructure is consolidation, which is not going to happen well if everyone insists on over-allocating resource they don’t use. OK, you’ll probably jump in with comments about memory ballooning, and thin provisioning, but you get where I’m coming from here.

The cloud providers keep their costs down and can make their money because of this consolidation, so it’s obvious you are not getting a “full server” unless you are willing to pay for dedicated resource.

When I got my dedicated server I significantly over-specced it, because I didn’t really known how much resource I needed, having only run the website on shared resource up to that point. In moving to AWS I now have 1/4 of the cores, 1/2 the memory and 1/10 of the disk space, but it costs approximately the same money. I’ve moved from bargain bucket dedicated hosting provider to world dominating cloud provider, so it’s not the fairest comparison, but the cloud is not cheaper for me. If my resource needs grow to the point where I would have maxed out the old dedicated server, the AWS costs would be significantly higher.

As I said yesterday, there are ways I can make the service cheaper once I confirm what resources I need, so maybe the final solution will actually be cheaper, but I don’t know that yet. The point is, there is the automatic assumption that the cloud is always cheaper and it’s just not true all the time. It comes with other benefits of course, but if cost is your prime metric, the cloud is not always the winner.

Conclusion

As I said in yesterday’s post, I’m really happy with the move so far. I like the additional flexibility, potential HA improvements in the case of hardware failure and the architectural options it has opened up. Having said that, I’m not blind to the fact the system administration is no simpler than it was with a dedicated server and it is a similar cost for less resource.

This is not meant to be provocative to either the cloud or anti-cloud zealots. It’s just an opinion. 🙂

Cheers

Tim…

Google as a Cloud Provider?

cloudI saw a tweet this morning that pointed me to this article.

Google To Challenge Amazon, Microsoft In Cloud Computing War

 

This comes hot on the heels of this article.

Google dumps ISP email support. Virgin Media takes ball, stomps home

I use a lot of Google services and I like them. Having said that, I just can’t bring myself to take their Google Cloud Platform seriously. It’s not that I don’t believe they have the capability to do cloud. The are Google after all. 🙂 It’s more about trusting their services will exist in the future. If they are happy to dump 4.6 million email customers in one shot, why should I believe they give a crap about my IaaS stuff?

This kind of behaviour is not new from Google. They have taken an axe to many services before, but this seems so much more dramatic and significant from a company that is pushing their public cloud agenda.

Now it all comes down to money, and I guess Google couldn’t make enough off the this ISP email customer, but it is still a worrying signal. People should always have an exit strategy for every cloud project, but with Google it seems like it should be a bigger priority.

Maybe I’m just being paranoid. Maybe I’m not. I just feel unnerved.

Cheers

Tim…

Video: Amazon Web Services (AWS) : Relational Database Services (RDS) for SQL Server

Here’s another video on my YouTube channel. This one is a quick run through of RDS for SQL Server, a DBaaS offering from Amazon Web Services.

The video was based on this article.

The cameo for this video is Garth Harbach, a former colleague of mine. 🙂

I’ve been ill recently and my voice is pretty shot. The last three videos have all be on AWS RDS, which has very similar setup regardless of which database engine you use. This has been really handy, as I could pretty much reuse one vocal track for all three videos. Not sure if anyone would have noticed, but I felt guilty, so I thought I would confess up front. 🙂

I’m hoping I’ll get my voice back in the next few days so I’ll be able to do something different. 🙂

Cheers

Tim…

Video: Amazon Web Services (AWS) : Relational Database Services (RDS) for Oracle

Here’s the latest video on my YouTube channel. This one is a quick run through of RDS for Oracle, a DBaaS offering from Amazon Web Services.

If you are not into the video thing, you can see the article this video was based on here.

Galo Balda has now joined the illustrious list of people who have said “.com” on one of my videos. 🙂

Don’t worry, I’ve not sold my soul to the cloud. I’m doing some talks at work and I’m doing these videos more as reference for my colleagues. Once this batch of videos is done, I’ll return to some less cloudy stuff. 🙂

Cheers

Tim…

[Cloud | On-Premise | Outsourcing | In-Sourcing] and why you will fail!

error-24842_640I was reading this article about UK government in-sourcing all the work they previously outsourced.

This could be a story about any one of a number of failed outsourcing or cloud migration projects I’ve read about over the years. They all follow the same pattern.

  • The company is having an internal problem, that they don’t know how to solve. It could be related to costs, productivity, a paradigm shift in business practices or just an existing internal project that is failing.
  • They decide launch down a path of outsourcing or cloud migration with unrealistic expectations of what they can achieve and no real ideas about what benefits they will get, other than what Gartner told them.
  • When it doesn’t go to plan, they blame the outsourcing company, the cloud provider, the business analysts, Gartner, terrorists etc. Notably, the only thing that doesn’t get linked to the failure is themselves.

You might have heard this saying,

“You can’t outsource a problem!”

Just hoping to push your problems on to someone else is a guaranteed fail. If you can’t clearly articulate what you want and understand the consequences of your choices, how will you ever get a result you are happy with?

Over the years we’ve seen a number of high profile consultancies get kicked off government projects. The replacement consultancy comes in, hires all the same staff that failed last time, then continue on the failure train. I’m not going to mention names, but if you have paid any attention to UK government IT projects over the last decade you will know who and what I mean.

Every time you hear someone complaining about failing projects or problems with a specific model (cloud, on-premise, outsourcing, in-sourcing), it’s worth taking a step back and asking yourself where the problem really is. It’s much easier to blame other people than admit you’re part of the problem! These sayings spring to mind.

“Garbage in, garbage out!”

“A bad workman blames his tools!”

Cheers

Tim…

PS. I’ve never done anything wrong. It’s the rest of the world that is to blame… 🙂

Update: I wasn’t suggesting this is only an issue in public sector projects. It just so happens this rant was sparked by a story about public sector stuff. 🙂

Video: Oracle Linux Virtual Machine (VM) on Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Continuing the cloud theme, here is a quick run through of the process of creating an Oracle Linux virtual machine on Amazon Web Services (AWS).

A few months ago I wrote an article about installing an Oracle database on AWS.

I updated the images in that article last night to bring them in line with this video.

The cameo today is by Joel Pérez, who was a bit of a perfectionist when recording “.com”. I’ve included about half of his out-takes at the end of the video. Don’t ever hire him for a film or you will run over budget! 🙂

Cheers

Tim…

Video: SQL Server Databases on Microsoft Azure

I mentioned in a previous post, the whole look and feel of Microsoft Azure has been rejigged. As a result, I had to do a run through of the SQL Server DBaaS stuff to update the screen shots in and old article on the subject.

Azure : SQL Server Databases on Azure

Since I was doing that, I figured I might as well do a video for my YouTube channel.

Cheers

Tim…

The Cloud : They took our jobs!

The title is of course inspired by “They took our jobs!” from South Park.

I’ve been doing some cloud-related talks recently and a pretty regular question is, “How is this going to affect my job as a [DBA | Sysadmin]?”

My answers usually include some of the following points.

  • Back in the old days, we used to spend hours obsessing about redo and rollback/undo and sizing of the individual parts that make up the SGA and PGA. Keeping on top of some of this stuff was a full time job, even for a small number of databases. Over time Oracle have added loads of automated features that mean we don’t have to worry about this stuff for “most” of our databases. So that means less DBAs right? Not really. We are just expected to cope with a lot more stuff now. Rather than looking after 3 databases, we look after hundreds or thousands.
  • For Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), the cloud is just a basic hosting company. You are still responsible for all system administration and database administration. A move to IaaS doesn’t affect jobs at all. If anything, it probably adds to the demand.
  • For Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings, like Database as a Service (DBaaS), things may be different. Your level of interaction with the OS and database varies depending on the vendor, but in some cases, you will have zero access to the OS, so there is no system administration, and the level of control over the database is limited. Surely that affects jobs? Well, once again, this has just made life easier, so your company can do more stuff and you will probably be expected to do more.
  • As far as Software as a Service (SaaS) is concerned, as a customer there is no access to the infrastructure, so there is no DBA or sysadmin work. If you want to look after the guts of Fusion Apps what’s wrong with you get a job with Oracle. 🙂 Even if you don’t have access to the guts of the SaaS system, you are still going to spend a lot of time designing systems to interact with it!
  • The cloud means I no longer have to install operating systems and databases! Well, sometimes I really enjoy doing donkey work, but if you’ve not automated most of this stuff, you are really living in the dark ages. If you have automated it already, then the cloud isn’t really any different to what you are doing now.
  • What the cloud will not do is understand your custom applications and provide the skills needed to diagnose problems and advise on solutions. All the interactions with your developers and support folks will still be necessary. I can’t see a cloud service helping with this sort of stuff ever. The role of a development DBA and the crossover between functional and technical knowledge is actually far more valuable than being able to install a bit of software.

There is no doubt the cloud will affect what we as DBAs and system administrators do, but our jobs have been constantly evolving over the last couple of decades I’ve been involved in IT. As Francisco said recently, “These days, DBA stands for Database Architect”, which I think is kind-of true. A decade ago I just did Oracle databases. Now I do Oracle, SQL Server and MySQL databases. I look after WebLogic, Tomcat, IIS and Apache App/Web servers. I’m helping to set up load balancers. I get involved in infrastructure projects for applications and middleware. It’s not that I’m awesome at any of this stuff, but as a DBA and/or system administrator you get exposed to so much, which makes you an ideal resource to help with this architectural stuff.

If you think a DBA just installs Oracle, creates databases and checks backups, your job will be gone soon. If you are a system administrator that just installs operating systems and does patches, your job will be gone soon. These are trivial tasks that anyone can learn in a few weeks, so you should hardly be surprised they can be automated out of existence. If instead you concentrate on the skills where you add true value to your company, you will be in demand for a long time!

I know it’s a bit of a random post, but I hope you can see where I’m coming from! 🙂

Cheers

Tim…